Thursday, 1 January 2009

Green Symbolism at Lamerton Church

Boxing Day, and I travelled down to Lamerton in Devon. I had been looking forward to this time away and for once it seemed as though the day was not damp, foggy or rainy. The strong cold winter sunshine felt almost spring-like - I even saw lambs in fields around Okehampton. As I passed the western edge of Dartmoor towards Lydford, glimpsing the moorland and high tors behind the hedgerows through the car window, I felt a strong sense of having arrived at a place of learning and discovery. A place which, over my very short visit here, I would ask for inspiration from.

Lamerton Church
I was surprised to find Lamerton church open in the latter part of the afternoon. Alone, I entered its cool presence and sat to sketch one of the many Christmas floral displays that brought colour and organic presence to the cold stone place. I wrote down some words that came to mind: stillness, beauty, peace, light, pattern, cold, wind-swept, stone, wood, plants, strength, community, bringing together, regeneration, birth...

This is a place of light and shadow, with an odd flickering movement of leaf shadows from outside wind-blown trees up near the altar. This is a place where nature meets man's worship to God. The flower arrangements are elements of abundant life brought into this place of worship. The colours of the flowers in front of me are alive in the cold fading sunshine of the evening, vivid against the darkening background of the cold heart of this ancient place. Their fragrance still mingles with that usual, churchy smell.

Here, as in all most old church buildings I find that silence always brings peace. There is always a presence here - mine? The place holds the message of Christmas, but not just in the transitory decorations, but in its purpose and presence. I hold no fear of my faith here. In this place is my story, my myth, my belonging, but it is also out on the wild moors nearby.

Greenary in the Church
As an exercise I decided to look around and see what natural imagery I could find the the church. There was a huge amount that I spotted in only a quick superficial look:

wood panels, floor tiles, stone carvings; text borders on ornaments, monument decorations, leaves on picture of the last supper, altar cross and decorations, stained glass on windows, stone arches, communion rail posts, floral motifs on organ pipes, pulpit, ends of pews, wooden screen, roof bosses (even a Green man), iron floor gratings, wooden font cover, kneelers and cushions.

I even found some small ferns growing on some inner stone walls - real greenary growing inside the church!

The Buzzard
I step outside and walk up the road. The evening sunlight is just disappearing as the sun settles behind the summit of Kit Hill. I see a buzzard, circling high in the cold wind against the blue sky. Silent, a hunter and always staring at death unless it can find food to fight the winter's cold - its wings catching the orange sunlight. There is some connection here with the church, with man's desire for life, salvation, hunting/looking for survival and meaning... or something like that!

High above the buzzard an aeroplane leaves a white trail. Like the buzzard - silent, yet clearly a disconnection with nature - it embodies man conquest of the planet, domination of nature and technology, and of not working with the earth but against it.

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